My husband is in the military. He joined in his late twenties when we were already married with a child. It was a tough decision and we had a lot of factors to weigh. Politically, ideologically and spiritually we probably aren’t what most people think of when they think about a military family, but ultimately, we decided that someone has to serve, and he was willing to be one of those people. It’s been worth it for our family.
We were surprised at first how often people thank him for his service. If he stops anywhere on the way to work or on the way home, people see his uniform and feel compelled to say thank you. At first, he was very uncomfortable with it. My husband is a full-time Air National Guardsman, not a combat veteran, and he doesn’t feel like he deserves any thanks for just doing his relatively safe day job.
But you know what? His service matters to some people, regardless of the details of his duties, and when they thank him, they don’t want to hear a list of reasons he doesn’t think he deserves it. They think he deserves it. They just want to hear, “You’re welcome.”
For a while, he responded with, “Thank you for your support.” It felt right to him to thank the other person right back. I think that was a gracious response.
Then he heard another service member acknowledge someone’s gratitude by saying, “You’re welcome. You’re worth it.” That resonated with him deeply. He immediately adopted the phrase. Now, when someone thanks him for doing his job, he affirms them right back. Those four small words give him a chance to remind every stranger who thanks him of their inherent worth.
I think this phrase has “stuck” because it’s a reflection of his heart, and something we try hard to instill in our children.
When it comes to the whole No Problem versus You’re Welcome thing, I am on Team You’re Welcome. I know that “No problem,” annoys some people, but it doesn’t annoy me. My kids will grow up hearing phrases like this in place of “you’re welcome,” and I’m fine with it. I personally don’t mind when someone says “no problem.” It’s just not my thing. I like the way a classic “You’re welcome,” feels.
We are still teaching our kids to say “you’re welcome” because I understand it as the standard polite response to a show of gratitude. I think it’s the best place for a kid to start.
But the lesson that I really want my kids to internalize and understand is, “You’re worth it.” When my kids hear their father tell a stranger, “You’re worth it,” we want them to fully understand what he means. Whatever phrase my kids use to respond to thanks, I want them to understand in their hearts that being kind, generous and gracious is non-negotiable because the people around them are inherently valuable and deserve to be treated well. We want our kids to be kind and generous. We want them to be helpful and thoughtful. But we definitely don’t want them to be smug or feel like they earn a jewel in their crown for being decent. If it’s for show, it’s phony. Kind, helpful and fair is the only acceptable way to be — the absolute bare minimum.
Now obviously I don’t make my kids say this phrase every time someone thanks them. We aren’t out here saying, “You’re welcome. You’re worth it,” every time someone passes the salt. I’m not trying to create little weirdos with habits nobody understands.
But we are intentional about discussing everyone’s inherent worth. When we tell them that everyone is equal and valuable and unique, we don’t do it through a rose-colored lens. We have discussed things like racial inequality, gay rights, fat positivity and privilege with our kids. My oldest son is the only one who “gets it” so far, but my kids all hear about the tough stuff. It’s an ongoing conversation in our home. My kids will all leave my home with a clear understanding that any system that elevates or oppresses anyone based on an inherent characteristic is a problem. I hope they’ll choose to act accordingly.
It’s important that our kids understand that people are worthy of our time, effort and help just because they are people and people matter. When someone thanks you, you should warmly acknowledge their gratitude. No matter what phrase you choose to do it, the posture of your heart should be, “Of course I was willing to do this for you. You are inherently worthy of kindness and good things by virtue of your humanity.”
Of course, as adults we know that some people just really suck, and we don’t always feel this lovey and gentle toward everyone. We know about oppressors, abusers, and assholes. My kids will learn those lessons, too. Life teaches us all.
Call me Pollyanna, but I choose to believe that most people are not oppressors, abusers and assholes. I choose to assume that people are good until they show me something else. My hope is that my kids will choose to approach other humans with the same optimistic view. I think most people deserve it.
And my kids need the practice. I personally believe that being good to people is essential to a child’s developing sense of self.
One time in an interview, I saw my fave girl Chrissy Metz say something that has always stayed with me: “Esteemable acts create self-esteem.” Isn’t that spot on? When we do good things for ourselves and other people, it makes us feel better about the people we are.
Teaching my kids the concept of, “You’re welcome. You’re worth it,” gives them an opportunity to do esteemable acts. Part of the reason I’m teaching them that everyone is worthy of their kindness is because it creates opportunities for them to do something kind–and doing kind things will lead them to view themselves as kind people.
It’s important to me that my kids grow to love themselves, body, mind and spirit. I think teaching them to see the value in other people teaches them to value themselves, too. Everyone wins when we see one another as worthy. I’m doing my best to make sure my kids are that kind of person.
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